This particular post is inspired by one of the most annoyingly sexist advertisements I have had the misfortune to watch, the terrible ways womyn’s voices have been misrepresented and continue to be absent among other sexist ways of Uganda’s media.
The advert, running or (which ran depending on if it finally stopped airing or not) was promoting a new for womyn-television station; Spark TV. The advert in question begins with, “ You know what they say,” before continuing on to harmful and sexist stereotypes that include, “who cries more, who does the chores, who is the shopaholic, who is all about the selfies, who brings the drama.” The answer to all this being: Girls.” In response to this critic, they have argued that the advert continues on to say womyn can be more than this. Yes, for less than a second, we do see a womyn rolling out of a car before the image then moves on to showing glimpses of what the programming will entail. However, how are we to ignore the blatant sexism and reinforcing of all these stereotypes? Are we to pretend that we do not understand the danger of continuing to perpetuate these untruths? For a station targeted at young womyn and girls, can we not foresee how problematic such an advert can be?
View said video here.
Now, sexism is so ingrained in our lives that many people fail to question even the most blatantly sexist advertisements. We have allowed womyn to continuously be portrayed in these harmful and stereotypical ways without questioning why it is so or even the repercussions of these portrayals.
This particular advert was aimed at promoting a new T.V Station, one targeted at womyn and girls. The images and videos feature womyn engaged in what I assume the advert considers are womyn’s daily activities that include; doing chores, crying, shopping and bringing the drama. This placing of womyn in stereotypical gender roles, and the reinforcement of harmful stereotypes in gender-specific marketing are all things that media continues to promote. The message to girls and womyn is essentially that these limited caricatures of womynhood are all that we aspire to or deserve in their lives. Girls’ self-esteem, values, expectations and how they see themselves continues to plummet in part due to this kind of sexist language that undermines their sense of self-worth and ability. The truth is that womyn do more than just cry and clean and bring drama. We are active participants in the shaping of our world and this country everyday in different ways and this is where the emphasis should be. Why should the latter be the message that is sent out to young girls and womyn?
“Media is the message and the messenger”,
Content of this nature, is intended to grab attention of a specific demographic and influence them. The content of such adverts is therefore extremely important and this is why there should be efforts taken towards avoiding ads that reinforce gender stereotypes and are likely to cause serious and widespread offence, or harm.
We continue to see womyn’s voices missing out in several key conversations that affect their lives daily. The result is that those who continue to demand for fair representation are brushed off as “angry feminists” or dismissed completely without a deliberate effort to try and remedy this wrong. Similarly, we have become accustomed to reading newspaper articles and the likes focused on furthering subordination of womyn and reinforcing old patriarchal standards. Despite the fact that womyn make up half of this country’s population, are active participants in almost all sectors and deserve to be heard as loudly as we often do the male voices, there representation in media spaces continues to be lower than low.
The proliferation of sexist imagery contributes to the normalization of these sexist ideals. People tacitly accept gender-based discrimination as part of our daily lives because it is re-enforced by the language and imagery we are exposed to daily.
I do not wish to get into it with media or patriarchal gatekeepers. I only insist that we all deliberately call out any sexist portrayal of womyn that manifests in media either throw the absence of womyn’s voices, these problematic articles, advertisements that make perpetuate harmful stereotypes etc etc.